Jan 242014

jos01_01p03-06““Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2 ESV)

That, to me, has always been one of the harshest verses in the Bible.

It’s blunt and almost cold…your beloved leader is dead, move on.


It must have felt like a swift kick in the gut to an already overwhelmed Joshua.

God works in wondrous ways and often, with swift kicks.

My first thought was that he had a concussion…his opponent was heavier and far more advanced than him and had smashed a round kick into the side of his head.

It wasn’t a malicious act, but it hurt.

He recovered enough to finish the fight and then I took him home for his mom the nurse to examine the damage.

He checked out fine, but it’s time to move on.

He was fighting people he had no business fighting in a place not suited for fighting at all.

In the providence of God we had lost our instructor and our facility, by sheer will power we had tried to hold the team together with other instructors in another place.

The state tournament is coming up…and we must win there to compete in the national tournament.

That’s what we have been trained to do, the goal we have worked to accomplish.

Golden motives are not immune to the blows of the Almighty.

When it’s time to move from where you are to where He is taking you, He will use whatever means necessary to convince you.

You may be with people you love… in a place you are comfortable… with your goals in sight… when heaven blasts you.

It’s sometimes the only way to get our attention.

You probably had advanced warning…but thought you knew Him better than you really do.

Our goals are not always His goals for us…no matter how often we try to baptize them.

His kicks are not malicious…they all contain a promise.

He is capable of kicking more than once.

I’ve been noticing a lot of bruises myself these days…

Make your own application…

Image from The Brick Testament…

Jan 242014

thumbnail.aspxO God the author of all good, I come to Thee for the grace another day will require for its duties and events.

I step out into a wicked world; I carry about with me an evil heart.

I know that without Thee I can do nothing, that everything with which I shall be concerned, however harmless in itself, may prove an occasion of sin or folly, unless I am kept by Thy power.

Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error, my affections from love of idols, my character from stain of vice, my profession from every form of evil.

May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore Thy blessing, and in which I cannot invite Thy inspection.

Prosper me in all lawful undertakings, or prepare me for disappointments.

Give me neither poverty nor riches.

Feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny Thee and say, Who is the Lord? or be poor, and steal, and take Thy name in vain.

May every creature be made good to me by prayer and Thy will.

Teach me how to use the world and not abuse it, to improve my talents, to redeem my time, to walk in wisdom toward those without, and in kindness to those within, to do good to all men, and especially to my fellow Christians. And to Thee be the glory.

Anonymous (2010-07-01). Puritan Prayers . Kindle Edition.


Jan 232014

03My Facebook feed broke me.

I knew something was wrong when my eyes glazed over and and my mind followed.

Amid the stream of pictures of adorable pets and reasons why Obama should be impeached were graphic photos of the Ukraine imploding.

They were accompanied by exhortations to pray as people were dying and evil was triumphing.

These prayer requests were so real and so raw my soul could hear them as my eyes read them.

I completely shut down at that point.

There was nothing left in the spiritual and emotional tank , no resources of care or empathy left to draw on.

I’d been working on the Philippine child abuse story and it was already consuming me.

We’d had death visit our church family again and grief and illness were taking their toll.

They cut off unemployment without creating any jobs and for some us tomorrow is a dark and fearsome place.

There was great passion and concern being expressed in all my social media…over the sportsmanship of a football player.

Add to that all the other prayer requests that scrolled in front of me and the cares that are common to all of us…and I couldn’t take one more.

I crawled into bed praying for nobody, wanting nothing more than to be unconscious for a few hours.

The internet and social media have shrunk the world in real and dramatic ways.

We see what is happening in the Ukraine or in Mexico or a dozen other places experiencing hell in real time.

We read the first prayer request of a friend with cancer across the country…and we follow the seemingly inevitable trajectory of the rest of their life.

We follow the successes and failures, sicknesses and recoveries of hundreds of people a day and we invest some of ourselves in each one of them.

Then, we either stop caring as much or we collapse in a burned out pile of hopes and prayer requests.

I wrote all that to say this…either technology is creating burdens we aren’t equipped or created to carry or God is using technology to call us to a whole new level of consecration and intercession for His kingdom.

I’m too tired to figure out which it is this morning.

Pray for the Ukraine…if you can.

Jan 222014

1426163_10152538970789156_1955504315_aWednesday is the day we use our social media platforms to advocate for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini.

We ask as always, that you change your Facebook profile picture to one of Saeed… and you use your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, to advocate on his behalf.


Please “like” the “Free Saeed” Facebook page if you haven’t already done so.

Here is an update on his imprisonment…

Jan 212014

links_image1Five self serving responses of sex offenders in the church…

Why has Calvinism caught on with evangelicals more than Lutheranism?

Harvard class on the Bible has 22,000 students from 180 countries…

Joni nominated for an Oscar…

N.T. Wright on why the Psalms matter…

Reading dark stories to your kids…

Interesting blog on Christian mysticism…

A watershed in American evangelicalism?

The methods of MLK…

Why I am not a deist…

Top ten list of Bible verses shared worldwide…

Chaplain Mike hits one out of the park again…

Wenatchee the Hatchet gives Driscoll more nightmares…

Sarah on flat tires and grateful hearts…

Can a God of love have wrath?

John Stackhouse on the problem of evil…


Jan 212014

whistleblower-back-stabbingIn Lucena City an orphanage, the Sankey Samaritan Mission for poor children and youth, was raided by the NBI and an American, Tom Randall and orphanage manager Toto Luchavez and his son Jake Luchavez were arrested and are charged with trafficking and child abuse based on strong testimony of some of the 31 victims.


While we are sickened again by yet another case of child abuse in the ministry, this case highlights the difficulties involved in bringing these vile acts to the attention of the public and authorities.

The whistleblower in this case is a missionary in the Philippines named Joe Mauk.

From his Facebook page;

“It is understandable a lot of people are seeking some additional background information on the posts we made regarding the rescue of young people from an abusive institution.  The foreign founder and funder is a highly respected and highly effective long-term missionary and servant of God. The institution began with a board of individuals of professional background who were charged with approving the policies of the institution and monitoring the administration. After the departure of two initial administrators, the foreign funder’s closest Filipino friend and confidante was placed as the administrator.  Over the years the board evolved into what it is now.  Total board members: The administrator, the administrator’s wife, the administrator’s son and two staff paid by the administrator. Even the foreign funder is not on the board that controls all of his investments in this institution.  The only accountability over the administration is the foreign funder himself who visits the country once a year.

A year or so ago one of my church members was asked to be principal of the Christian school that operates on the same compound as the children’s institution. This past year she recruited one of our young people, a newly certified teacher, to join the faculty.  She was assigned living space in the dorm of the girls.  Some of the girls confided in her of the abuse they were experiencing by the administrator. She told my daughter Miriam Bongolan who is trained in detecting child abuse by the head start program in the US and has worked in missions involving anti-abuse and child trafficking.  She brought the news to me.  I asked if there was anything I could send to the foreign funder to verify this.  Two girls from the institution, at great personal risk, smuggled out letters to the teacher who gave them to Miriam who gave them to me.  I immediately scanned them and emailed them to the foreign funder.  His response was that he knew about one of the girls, that she was emotionally disturbed and told stories and that he had probably received a dozen such letters from her.  He said he didn’t know about the other girl but would handle it himself as he was due to visit in 6 weeks.

As a service to the institution, I had been providing security guards from the agency that provides security for our conference center.  In anticipation of the foreign funder’s visit to handle things, upon legal advice, I moved to increase security there.  This attempt was met with furious opposition by the administrator and the funder.  Within a week my increased security was replaced with a new agency who hired the old guards.  Realizing there was nothing more I could do to help and realizing the responsibility to report to authorities reports received of abuse, I turned all information I had over to my legal counsel and to a pastoral crisis intervention team to report the matter to authorities. 

And, it might have stayed there but.. I have five daughters.  They are all fierce warriors for what they believe is right.  This makes for interesting family dynamics but was also useful in this case.  They would not let my youngest daughter Miriam get discouraged or give up.  She and her teacher friend persisted against great odds until they were able to reach the highest levels of Philippine law enforcement.  Hence the action we reported in our posts.”

Mauk is not being held up as a hero in some circles, but as a villain.

A pastor friend of Tom Randall’s named Joe Coffey wrote this blog article and has started a Facebook page in Randall’s defense that already has 22,000 “likes”.

Despite reports that the children were the ones to make the accusations, Mauk is being painted as an “accuser’ and “single man with a vendetta”.

As is too often the case, very little mention of the alleged victims is made by those defending Randall.

While there is little more damnable than false accusations of child abuse, ignoring such charges is.

We cannot assume guilt or innocence in this case, but we can and should allow the investigations and trials to proceed before we try to vindicate the accused without the victims getting their day in court.

More from Mauk;

“We are now being accused by supporters of the institution of terrible things but that’s okay, the kids are safe. This is the reason abuse in Christian institutions over the years has not come to light until years later. The refusal to accept reports is common. The resistance to any action is fierce and success in actual having charges filed is extremely difficult. Some of have been asking “How could Joe do this?” Simple answer: kids were being raped, what did you want me to do?”

We’ll be following this…

Jan 202014

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. Bloggers and internet reporters now have the legal protections of journalists under the law. This is a great victory only if we all  adopt true journalistic ethics to accompany our rights. Christian bloggers have an even higher standard to aspire to than the world. In an era where traditional media is driven by monied interests as much as substance we have the opportunity to stand and speak truth to power while others have allowed cash to silence them.

2. Your children will remember their childhood as well as you remember yours…

3. Martin Luther King Day used to spark controversy here and in other corners of the Christian internet. The more I think about the man and the day, the more I think it’s the perfect biblical memorial…it’s celebrates what God can do with a flawed and sinful person and the rest of us flawed and sinful people should relish that and remember it.

4. Last night, at the end of a classic playoff game won by the Seahawks, Seattle corner back Richard Sherman taunted his opponent, strutted around the field making the “choke” signal, then made classless comments about his greatness and his opponents lack of same when a microphone was available. Those of us who spoke of our disgust for this behavior were quickly rebuked by his fans….and you wonder why we our society is increasingly base and uncivil.

5. Being a celebrity not only covers a multitude of sins, your fans will provide you a license to commit them.

6. The move to legalize pot is simply a call to allow us to further self medicate. The real question should be “why are we in so much pain”?

7. Hell hath no fury like the fan of a celebrity scorned…

8. “Passion” is the new get out of jail free card. Sherman was just exhibiting “passion”. I guess that the other 105 players on the field were slackers…

9. If we had the same “passion” for our faith, for justice, for the the real problems and issues in our society that we have for football, we could change the world. We don’t.

10. We move ever closer to a society where there are no lines for right and wrong, just a fluid state of situational ethics based on status, not standards….and the church is sailing right along on the wave.


J.J.S. on God and football...

Free Download – Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. via @christianaudio

Jan 172014

He woke up troubled, his dreams had been unsettling…nightmares, he called them.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that reality will be worse.

He had dreamed he was part of a Native American tribe and they had thrown him out for some reason…when he woke up he was boy without a tribe.

He always will be.

He is too open to the world, too accepting of the eclectic, too embracing of diversity to fit a mold.

His wardrobe has skateboard helmets and bolo ties, ski boots and muscle shirts, skinny jeans and funky hats, and he sometimes combines them in odd ways.

He loves Jesus and Banksy, homeless people and preachers, the Beatles and Louis Armstrong.

He’s very sensitive, yet a warrior, he’s an athlete and an artist.

He likes tofu and sprouts, but prefers to eat at the truck stop.

He could excel at tae kwan doe, except for the fact that he loathes causing pain.

He is only truly content on top of a skateboard and will stay that way long past the point where his body wants him to quit.

He is different.

Tribal membership require conformity…it requires that you look and think and feel and speak and act like the rest of the tribe.

It requires that you no longer be who you were created to be, but who the tribe wants you to be.

Praise be to God…he won’t be able to do that.

He will always be looking for his tribe.

The real nightmares will start every time he thinks he’s found one.

Make your own application…

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